Thetford – 14 White Hart Street

Looking at the listed buildings register it appears that the majority of properties along White Hart Street are listed, with many having long and complex histories.

Number 14 is now in use as a nursery, but the building itself dates back in part to at least the eighteenth century. It was in use as a theatre and shop until 1833 and the building is still known as Theatre House. After it fell out of use as a theatre it was converted into two houses and a shop, before being converted into offices during the late twentieth century.

The left half of the property has retained its eighteenth century shopfront and the display window is original, with its four rows of four panes. Unfortunately, some recent work at the property has discovered that the theatre element at the rear of the structure is no longer present, as it was demolished in 1833.

A history of the town published in the Norfolk News in 1896 gives the name of the theatre, which was thoughtfully called the Thetford Theatre. The authors of the article claim that it was at its height of popularity in 1830 and was “in old times visited by good companies of actors”. A book of the time mentions that the popularity of the theatre diminished in 1833 when the assizes moved to Norwich. I’m not quite sure that I understand the link there, as would a court really generate that much trade for a theatre?

The theatre did get a fair bit of publicity when in 1808 one of the audience decided it would be a marvellous idea to throw a stone from the gallery. This hit a gentleman in the pit and caused some pain, but efforts made by Mr. Fisher, the theatre manager, to find the culprit were unsuccessful.

In 1939 the shop here was a fishmongers and fruit shop, operated by Alfred Barnett, who was also one of the town’s ARP wardens.